February 10, 2024 

BIG EAST notebook: Battle in Providence, Geno/CD clinch win 1,200

Conference celebrates National Girls and Women in Sports Day

It was a newsy week in the BIG EAST conference with Marquette and Providence going down to the wire in Rhode Island, UConn’s dynamic coaching duo of Geno Auriemma and Chris Dailey clinching win No. 1,200, a ‘Female Forward’ broadcast and some young coaches on the rise. Let’s get into it.

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Promising performance in Providence

PROVIDENCE — When the Providence Friars tipped off against Marquette last weekend, they did so on a three-game win streak — the program’s first three-game streak since 2018-19. In front of a near capacity crowd (1,344) at Alumni Hall in Providence, head coach Erin Batth and her squad went on a 20-2 run to start the game. Junior forward Emily Archibald was red hot for the Friars in the first quarter, scoring 11 points on 4-4 shooting from the field, including 3-3 from beyond the arc. Marquette would go on to outscore Providence in each of the following four quarters, but the Friars held on to the lead for 34 minutes in a 66-62 loss to the Golden Eagles.

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Despite the loss, there’s no denying that Providence is trending in a positive direction. Predicted to finish 10th in the league, the Friars sit at No. 6 in the conference, a game and a half behind an experienced Marquette team that’s spent some time this season in the AP Top 25 poll. At 5-6, the Friars have already won more conference games than last season, when they finished with a 13-19 (4-16, BIG EAST) record. At the end of last season, Providence and then-head coach Jim Crowley decided to part ways. During his seven year tenure, Crowley compiled an 85-126 overall record, including a 32-93 mark in BIG EAST play. It’s been awhile since the Friars have been competitive in the conference.

When Erin Batth stepped on campus over the summer as a first-time head coach, she welcomed the opportunity to kickstart “a new era in Friartown.” Batth took ownership over the team’s loss, replaying to The Next the final moments of the game.

“I mean, even just being a head coach I learned a lot — you know, I took a timeout, I didn’t want them to dribble, I wanted to advance it … my full court play didn’t really work out as I wanted — but those things happen … a lot of lessons, a lot of things we could have done better.”

Batth has plenty to work with from last year’s roster, including this seasons co-captains: a skilled shooter in Emily Archibald, junior guard Kylee Sheppard and seniors Brynn Farrell and Grace Efosa. Junior forward Olivia Olsen is a consistent paint presence for the Friars, contributing a steady stat line of 14.8 points and 9.2 rebounds per game. Wake Forest transfer Marta Morales Romero — who won bronze with her native Spain at the 2023 FIBA U20 Women’s European Championships over the summer — is an efficient shooter who contributes a solid 27.3 minutes per game. The team is playing with a tremendous amount of confidence with Batth’s leadership.

“I’m a big, big believer in the power of words and what you say to people, and how you can get them to do things they haven’t ever done before, as long as you bring the energy yourself — that’s me, and I’m a good example to them, feeding into them, getting them wrapped together. You know, the way we practice is faster, more physical — [which is] what I want. And so a testament to them, they’ve done a great job. They’ve really bought in with that, so I’m just proud.”

There was a different energy in Providence’s Alumni Hall last Saturday. A full gym and a competitive BIG EAST match-up are both wins for a team on the rebuild. There’s a lot to be optimistic about as the program continues to evolve.

Auriemma and Dailey celebrate historic milestone

Before he ever coached his first game as head coach of UConn, in 1985, Geno Auriemma hired Chris Dailey as an assistant coach. Dailey was at the time an assistant coach at her alma mater, Rutgers, where she won an AIAW championship as a player in 1982. The two met on the recruiting trail while Auriemma was an assistant coach at Virginia. Geno and CD, as Dailey is affectionately know, have now won 1,200 games together, following only Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer and Duke men’s basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski as the winningest coaches in college basketball history. Only Auriemma and Dailey have reached the 1,200 win milestone at one school.

UConn head coach Geno Auriemma answers media questions following his 1,200th win against Seton Hall on Feb. 7, 2024. (Photo Credit: Domenic Allegra)

Auriemma and Dailey have worked so well together for all these years — winning 11 national championships, over 50 conference regular season and tournament championships, the first and second-longest winning streaks in college basketball history (111 and 90 games, respectively) and six undefeated seasons. They complement eachother in important and sometimes comical ways. There could be a montage created with videos of CD pulling Geno away from a ref to avoid a technical foul.

“I have a lot of strengths that are the same as her and I have a lot of weaknesses that are the same as hers. And she has a lot of strengths that I don’t have. And I have some strengths that she doesn’t,” Auriemma said of his relationship with Dailey. “So we combine all those things and make it work. I know what I do and I know what I’m good at and I know what my input is. And she knows what hers is.

“And a lot of times these things don’t last very long. Because somebody gets the idea that, ‘I want to do it on my own, I don’t like the way we’re doing it. Yeah, we’re successful but I’m not happy.’ Very rarely does it work — to this level, to this extent.”

What Auriemma and Dailey have created in Storrs, CT is indeed rare. Their basketball program has re-written the history books of women’s basketball and produced some of the WNBA’s all-time greats. Their legacies are intertwined, and what they’ve accomplished has far exceeded what they could have ever imagined when they became teammates in 1985.

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BIG EAST features ‘female forward’ broadcast

On Feb. 7, the BIG EAST conference and Marquette partnered to celebrate National Girls and Women in Sports Day. The FS1 broadcast featured a talent and production comprised entirely of women. The conference’s second annual ‘female forward’ broadcast included Kim Adams (game analyst) and Lisa Byington (play-by-play) with Isis Young as sideline reporter. Carol Langley produced while Lindsey Ploszaj directed. The production crew, including camera operators, replay operators, audio and graphics teams and technical director were also all women, as were the game officials.

“The BIG EAST and our broadcasting partner FOX Sports recognize the importance of National Girls and Women in Sports Day, and having an all-female national broadcast on that day is one way we can highlight the annual observance,” said conference commissioner Val Ackerman.

Young BIG EAST coaches on the rise

On Wednesday, the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) announced its 2024 ‘So You Want To Be A Coach’ class. Program participants, nominated by their WBCA-member head coach, must have exhausted their final year of eligibility at a four-year university or have graduated within the past year. The program teaches participants about the administrative side of coaching, recruiting, game rules and how to be competitive in the job search.

“The WBCA community of coaches each year invests in young, aspiring coaches through the ‘So You Want To Be A Coach’ program,” said WBCA executive director Danielle Donehew. “We have high expectations for these graduating student-athletes and the future contributions they will make to the game of women’s basketball.”

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Participants from BIG EAST programs include:

As part of the program, each student-athlete will participate in a two-day workshop during Final Four weekend at the WBCA Convention in Cleveland.

Written by Tee Baker

Tee has been a contributor to The Next since March Madness 2021 and is currently a contributing editor, BIG EAST beat reporter and curator of historical deep dives.

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